6 Potential Problems with Au Pair Overlap

by cv harquail on July 25, 2008

Even though the 6 Reasons to Have Au Pairs Overlap are compelling, there can be some significant downsides to this strategy for orienting your new Au Pair. Sometimes, these downsides will be deal breakers — the danger of having one of these problems go from ‘potential’ to ‘actual’ may outweigh the expected benefits of overlap.

Probably the potential downside mentioned most often is:

partied too hard1. Your old Au Pair may pass some of her really bad habits to your new Au Pair.

Host moms and dads reported to me that their worst overlap experiences were when their outgoing Au Pair (pun intended) was a real party animal.

The old Au Pair was much more focused on getting the new Au Pair oriented to the after-work social scene — especially great ways to meet cute guys — than she was in teaching the new Au Pair how to get things done at our house. She told our new Au Pair it was okay to start work late if you were tired from the night before!

If your Au Pair has bad habits — if she isn’t on time, stays out too late, is sloppy around the house, drives unsafely, whatever — you want to avoid any opportunity for her to suggest to the new Au Pair that these bad habits are okay with you.

2. The old Au Pair may also pass on “negative information” to the new Au Pair.

If your outgoing Au Pair is disgruntled in any way, if she feels no regret about leaving because she is in some way unhappy with you, she may be more inclined to tell your new Au Pair everything that’s wrong rather than everything that’s right. For example, she might harp about how your 8 year old will occasionally say something bratty, rather than talk about how much fun your 8-year-old can be when you get him involved in an activity. She might complain about having to work a full 45 hour week (even if 8 of those hours she’s asleep!)

Similarly, your outgoing Au Pair might complain all about you and your strange preferences and behaviors rather than talking about the effort that you make to have your Au Pair’s life enjoyable.

[[ To be sure, even if your outgoing Au Pair is terrific and adores you and your family, there’s always the possibility that she will tell your new Au Pair all about your quirks and foibles. I’ve decided that this is okay with me, because my new Au Pair is going to find out soon enough what a weirdo I am and how my children, my family, or my community can be difficult.]]

3. The quality of information can degrade as it is passed from one person to another.

Remember that old game of telephone? Consider that your explanation of “how to do the laundry” may have been absorbed by your old Au Pair only 80%. So, if your old Au Pair shares this 80% of the laundry information and the new Au Pair comprehends and retains only 80% of that, you’ve got an Au Pair that knows only 32 of your ’50 tips for clean laundry’. How well do you think the kids’ laundry is going to turn out? You will have to go over key information with your new Au Pair even if your old Au Pair has already “trained her” on that.

4. Having your Au Pairs overlap can be costly.

You need to give both of them pocket money for that week, you need to feed both of them, and you need to provide a place for your outgoing Au Pair to sleep and park her stuff. There are also soft costs involved — it still takes a lot of effort on your part to organize an effective overlap, and it takes some effort to address the social & emotional needs of two Au Pairs at once.

5. You may need to manage competition, jealousy, and simply not getting along.

2 horses rearing The Au Pairs may become jealous or envious of each other. The new Au Pair may be envious of the old Au Pair’s comfort in this culture, or her social life, or her relationship with your kids. The old Au Pair may become jealous of your new Au Pair because she gets a slightly upgraded bedroom, has a new opportunity ahead of her, has takes over all her friends, and is the fresh new face that’s exciting to the kids.

6. Having Au Pairs overlap can be confusing to your children. Not only do they need to figure out who’s on duty, the kids may also feel conflicted about who they should cuddle. After all, they can only sit on one lap at a time.

thumbs_Kate_the_KidsAnd, itt can be especially difficult for children to say goodbye to an old Au Pair exactly when they’re saying hello to a new Au Pair. Alone, each of these emotions may be hard to manage. When these emotions are mingled, kids can struggle.

With some forethought, and if you’re sure your old Au Pair is feeling good about her year with you, there are steps you can take to head off some of these downsides and make the overlap work for you.

Some Tips for Making Overlap Work are coming up… in the meantime, are their any problems that you’ve had with overlap that we should add to the list? Any questions? Add to the comments, below….

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Bob E August 9, 2008 at 1:58 am

Issue #1 (passing along bad habits) trumps the other issues by a mile in my view.

Anonymous August 23, 2008 at 3:27 am

My au pairs overlapped for two days. I had my old au pair move into a guest room in order for the new one to move directly into the room. I wanted them to meet face to face. They had already established an email relationship. I thought it was nice for the new au pair to have someone to bounce things off of. However, I did not want my old to train my new. My au pair experience is relative new and I realized there were things (i.e. training) that I would do differently. Despite the amount of extra work for me, I thought it was important to learn from my past learning experiences and train my new au pair myself.

Calif Mom August 1, 2009 at 11:57 am

A few days of overlap is plenty, for all the reasons stated. It can be very awkward, and if a host can take a day or two, you’re better off to just do the first few days of training and let them launch!

Our LCC advised having the first AP move out and sleep on the couch. Felt horrible to ask her to do it, but it was the right thing, and first AP absolutely understood and was cheerful about it. These really are an emotionally mixed-up few days for everyone in the home. Better not to drag it out. A week is much too long.

EUROaupair August 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I had one week overlap with the old AP. She was amazing, she taught me everything, I feel kind of lost without her!

Where the parents were vague about routines, house rules and general expectations, she had answers. Favourite foods, cultural nuances, secret parking spaces, you name it.

My HF aren’t so big on communication and having the old AP on facebook has been an absolute godsend. Not just for clarifiying stuff regarding the kids, but for moral support!

Me, Day 3: “HM & HD haven’t spoken to me for two days. I asked them if I had done something wrong and they said no, but I am sure they are angry. I am really freaking out”

She: “Yeah they don’t talk so much, its honestly not you. They will tell you if something is wrong, for sure.”

Me: “Phew..”

MTR August 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm

LOL, my AP told me yesterday that for the first 3 months that she was with us (it is her 14th months with us now) she thought that HD did not like her. I did tell her upfront when we just matched that my husband is not very talkative and tends to be quite, but she still thought that he did not like her. She only admitted that to me now. She also said that she was grateful that I did warn her about his quite disposition.

willow March 16, 2011 at 1:14 am

I am a repeat au pair spending my second time in the US and I just heard about this site. While going through all the posts, I now landed here. I read a couple of times about the fear of the old AP passing on bad habbits to the new AP. I am just wondering why these bad habbits don’t seem to be addressed during the year. I know it is hard to talk to someone about their bad habbits and ask them to change behaviour, but if it really bothers you, you should address it right away.
Even if these habbits don’t change or change only slightly after talking about it, just tell the new AP about the bad habbits you don’t want to see any longer. Every AP appreciates constructive criticism, at least I do.

My 2 cents March 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

You make an excellent point Willow. And yes, that would be the ideal and we should all do it. But I’m sure you can appreciate that as the year wears on and folks all get more comfortable with each other and the au pair, in particular, is focused less on the host family and their work duties and more on their next adventure, the small stuff gets swept under the rug and host parents adopt more and more the attitude of let’s just finish the year on a positive note and we will be sure to address this smaller stuff when the new au pair comes in. I can imagine that you too with your first family might have looked the other way on small things maybe your host parents did or did not do that you just decided was not worth raising in the general context of keeping a positive relationship in the short and long term.

But yes, once the old au pair leaves, I do raise some of the small stuff that was an issue for me with that au pair so that new au pair doesn’t fall into the same habits or thinks that because old au pair did it that way or was allowed to do it, that it’s okay for her to do it. Of course, I don’t identify that the former au pair did the things I don’t like so it doesn’t get back to her somehow and now she’s upset because, after all, these are all things that are minor annoyances.

Gianna March 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Sometimes I choose to overlook things in a short to medium term relationship that I would not overlook in a permanent or long term relationship. I think these things come under the area of things that are not deal breakers but ongoing minor irritants. If I can live with it, why risk bad feeling or hurt feelings. This may not be ideal but it is realistic. We have to pick our issues but we might not want to perpetuate some behaviors if we do not need to. I give you credit for checking out this site.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I think that’s right. I have found that I’m quite willing to overlook small things in the way my AP approaches childcare, things in her working routine that I might do differently, her choice in boyfriends, etc. – as long as the family has grown to love and appreciate her for who she is (after all none of us is perfect). However, when things are going badly, every little infraction chafes. That being said, some of the things I tolerated in beloved APs became rules for the new AP.

However, my personal bottom line in overlap is not in transferring bad habits – it’s that the kids love the outgoing AP very much, and quite frankly, the outgoing AP has a hard time in letting go. Better for everyone to make a new bond from the start (and we welcome visits from former APs!).

Calif Mom March 17, 2011 at 8:37 am

I agree, TACL. It’s a very hard emotional time for everyone–the old au pair is transitioning out, saying good bye to a flotilla of friends, worrying about what she’ll do next back home. The kids are sad to see a beloved au pair leave. But the quotidian things are comfortable. Bringing in the new au pair can make her feel like a jilted lover.

We like to take a day or two, maybe take our summer trip for a week, without an au pair’s needs to worry about at all, so we can reconnect, breathe a minute and regroup.

Then we get excited about the incoming au pair.

It’s very true that we don’t get the benefit of having the old au pair do the training from the au pair’s eye view, but the time we did try to do it that way, it didn’t work. Better to let each one find their way, and get brave about asking host parents questions.

HM Pippa March 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm

We had a 5 day overlap that resulted in a disastrous flame out of the incoming AP. AP1 was really conscientious about showing AP2 kids routines, techniques for dealing with the toddler, and the location of stuff around the house and neighborhood. AP2 used the week as a shopping vacation, even commenting to her friends and other APs what a great holiday she was having (learned from cluster APs after her departure). She sat on the sofa, watched TV, went to the mall, and never bothered to interact with the kids or learn from AP1. And since she’d turned vegetarian the day she boarded the plane for Amerika, she wouldn’t cook meat or eat meals with the family. What I did get from her were daily fashion shows of the amazing deals she found at Abercrombie, and a house heavily scented with eau de hollister. She like to spritz the air and walk through it. Repeatedly.

I doubt that she’d have performed much better if AP1 were not there to do her job for her, but she clearly got the impression that she was not here to work. On the bright side, this led us to a very speedy, unambiguous decision to rematch.

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